Game Recap: Bulls 87, Timberwolves 80


Nov 10, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) shoots the ball over Minnesota Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic (14) during the second half at the United Center. The Bulls beat the Timberwolves 87-80. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-US PRESSWIRE

Well, this particular tilt was pretty much what we all expected to see from the Timberwolves and Bulls in Chicago on Saturday night. It was an ugly, low-scoring game decided in the fourth quarter. Nate Robinson got hot and made some shots that nobody should ever make, let alone shoot, and then followed it up by throwing the ball out of bounds a few times. Oh, and another important Wolves player hurt himself, with Chase Budinger falling hard after being tripped along the baseline late in the fourth quarter.

The word at the end of the game from the Timberwolves was that Budinger received X-rays on his left knee that revealed nothing. He was on crutches in the locker room, and will undergo further testing once the team gets to Dallas. It looked like he got kicked and bent his leg awkwardly as he fell to the court, and the Wolves are referring to it as a twisted knee at this point in time. With Brandon Roy not entering the game due to soreness and J.J. Barea not making the trip because of his mid-foot sprain….let’s just say that Budinger is maybe the last guy the Wolves could afford to lose at this point in time. Which, of course, is exactly why he got hurt.

The Timberwolves looked fantastic once again early on. Derrick Williams continued his solid stretch of play at the defensive end, as Carlos Boozer didn’t score his first points until a couple of free throws in the third quarter and finishing with just 2 points on 0 of 5 shooting from the floor. Williams was even rotating well on the defensive end of the floor, hedged well on high screens set by Boozer, and was active in the passing lanes.

On offense, he was his usual passive-aggressive self, unfortunately with a few more mid-range jump shots than Rick Adelman would like, and ultimately finished shooting a ghastly 0 for 10 from the field with 6 rebounds and a couple of made free throws. While he had more than a couple of shots go in and out of the basket and probably should have gone to the free throw line more often, an 0-fer is not what Adelman is looking for out of him on the offensive end of the floor.

Without Derrick Rose, the Bulls struggle to score, much like the Wolves are struggling without Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. Fortunately for the Bulls, Joakim Noah is one of the few centers in the league that are quick enough to get past Pekovic and strong enough to slow him down on the opposite end of the floor. Even with Pekovic giving Noah plenty of space on offense, daring him to shoot his mediocre mid-range jump shot, Noah was able to put the ball on the floor and get around Pekovic multiple times to either score or cause the defense to rotate and breakdown. Pekovic had a very efficient game on offense (8 for 13 from the field with 18 points and 8 rebounds) but Noah did just enough on offense himself to more or less counter Pekovic’s effect on the game.

The Wolves second unit struggled a in this game, partly because Budinger was mostly on the court with the starters due toRoy’s absence from the game. In addition, neither player in the frontcourt combination of Greg Stiemsma and Dante Cunningham is anywhere near the same type of low post powerhouse presence that Pekovic provides, which relegates the second unit to a crew of jump shooters in the half court offense.

It is also becoming clear that the second unit is most effective when it is able to get out and run the floor, and coach Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls’ fantastic defense would not allow the Wolves to run the floor. It certainly was not Stiemsma’s best game, but Cunningham kept the Wolves close in the second quarter with his reliable jumper from the top of the key. For whatever reason, the Bulls decided to not even contest Cunningham from mid-range until the fourth quarter, and once that was taken away, Cunningham became a liability on offense. For as great as Cunningham is in small spurts and as a hustle player, he is an under-sized power forward that cannot put the ball on the floor or shoot over taller players.

Luke Ridnour played well in the second half, keeping the Wolves close by both shooting over the shorter Nate Robinson, and shooting wide open jumpers when Robinson continually sagged below the Wolves’ high screens that they set on nearly every possession in the second half. Malcom Lee (4 of 6 from the field with 9 points and 2 assists) also played solid minutes in the second half, showing poise in getting to the basket, and even remaining composed enough to stop in the lane and pass to open shooters on the perimeter.

The game fell apart quickly in the fourth quarter when the Wolves could not get their shots to fall and struggled to rebound on both ends of the floor. Five times in the fourth quarter the Wolves had a chance to close to within five points, but came away with empty possessions each time. The Wolves even switched to playing a zone late in the fourth quarter, which stumped the Bulls to the point that the Wolves got within five points with just over a minute to play. Unfortunately, the Wolves couldn’t pull any closer, and after playing the foul game for a few possessions, ended up losing by a final score of 87-80, falling to 4-2 on the season.

Quick Notes:

– Andrei Kirilenko was once again fantastic for the Wolves. While he only shot 3 for 9 on the game, missing all three of this three point attempts, he still finished with a stat-stuffing line of 11 points, 12 rebounds (4 offensive), 7 assists, 2 steals, and a block, while also playing a game-high 42 minutes. Wow.

– Shved again struggled with his outside shot, finishing 3 of 11 from the field. His line, however, is also all kinds of wonderful: 7 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists with just one turnover. He continues to be aggressive on offense and solid on defense. The only downside to his aggressiveness thus far has been his tendency to jump in the air on offense with nowhere to go. He is athletic enough to bail himself off a lot of the time, but it is a horrible habit to get into.

– One last time, let’s marvel at the ugliness of these stat lines turned in by counterparts Derrick Williams and Carlos Boozer. Behold:





















– The Timberwolves will play the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night at American Airlines Center in Dallas, with the opening tip set for 7:30 p.m.